Video shows French hostages abducted in Mali last year: AFP
4/14/2012 8:00:06 PM -
OUAGADOUGOU (AFP) - Al-Qaeda's north African branch has sent a video of two French nationals abducted in Mali last November to the authorities in Burkina Faso, which was viewed by AFP on Saturday.
The footage, dated February 22, shows Philippe Verdon and Serge Lazarevic sitting on the sand in front of a tent, wearing turbans but with their faces clearly visible. The two men appear weak but speak clearly.
Verdon says that they are "here in the desert with AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) in extremely difficult conditions, in particular for health reasons."
Addressing France's President Nicolas Sarkozy directly, he adds: "I am asking him to do everything possible to try to resolve this situation."
Lazarevic, who appears to be in better shape than his colleague but who speaks less clearly in the video, makes a similar appeal.
"I am asking France, President Sarkozy, French and international associations and the French people, if they can help us," he says.
"Any help is welcome, AQIM is open to negotiation," he adds.
The footage has already been sent on to the French authorities, a Burkinabe security source said.
There was no immediate response from the French foreign ministry on the video, but the head of the support committee for the two men, Pascal Lupart, said they still wanted a more recent video to show how the hostages were.
"We hope, too, that the next French president ... will be willing to treat this matter as a priority," he said.
He was due to discuss the case with French government officials on Friday, he added.
AQIM kidnapped the two men on November 16 in Mali's northern town of Hombori, where they were working as geologists for a Malian company.
They are among six French hostages held by AQIM, the four others having been abducted from Niger in September 2010, where they were working for Satom, a subsidiary of the French nuclear group Areva.